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Vir Sanghvi’s biography on his website describes him as “the best-known Indian journalist of his generation”. On the jacket of A Rude Life, his new memoir, the claim arrives diluted: “one of the best-known”. But, even allowing for the imprecision of measuring fame, its stronger form seems to me perfectly defensible. Certainly no peer has been so well-known for so long.
MJ Akbar, Swapan Dasgupta and the late Chandan Mitra have long been more associated with politics (or other things) than journalism; Shekhar Gupta and Tavleen Singh’s name recognition is more restricted than Sanghvi’s (to Delhi and to avid, rather than casual, consumers of politics). Twitter followers are one measure of fame: the only journalists with more than Sanghvi’s 4.2 million are a decade or more younger. Except for Rajat Sharma, who does not exactly represent a like-for-like comparison.
An early start
Dhiren Bhagat, who from the generosity of posterity now looks like that generation’s brightest star, died at the wheel of his Maruti Gypsy in 1988, aged thirty-one. In 1988 Sanghvi, only a year older than Bhagat, was already on his third stint as editor of a magazine, the Calcutta weekly Sunday. A decade earlier he had become India’s youngest-ever magazine editor, at Bombay. He then spent several years running…